Canadian man gets 5-year jail, caning for StanChart robbery at Holland Village

·Senior Reporter
·7-min read
David James Roach being escorted by police officers after arriving in Singapore on 17 March 2020. (Photo: Singapore Police Force)
David James Roach being escorted by police officers after arriving in Singapore on 17 March 2020. (Photo: Singapore Police Force)

SINGAPORE — A Canadian man who robbed a Standard Chartered (StanChart) bank branch at Holland Village in 2016 and then fled to Thailand was jailed five years and sentenced to six strokes of the cane at the State Courts on Thursday (7 July).

David James Roach, 31, pleaded guilty to robbing $30,450 in the possession of one Jeanette Yang Jiayi, a StanChart bank teller, between 11.05am and 11.20am on 7 July 2016 at the branch, and removing criminal proceeds of the same amount from Singapore. 

Roach's jail term is backdated to 17 March last year, when he was extradited to Singapore and charged on the same day. 

Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) also acceded to the UK’s request not to cane Roach if he were found guilty of robbery, as part of extradition proceedings. Robbery committed in daylight carries a mandatory minimum of six strokes of the cane under Singapore's penal code.

On the issue of caning, MHA and the Attorney-General's Chambers said in a joint statement that the Singapore government is working through the necessary procedures to fulfil the assurance given to the UK government.

"This assurance given to the UK is in recognition of the differing views that countries have on corporal punishment and does not affect Singapore’s long-held view that such punishment does not constitute torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or contravene international law.

"The assurance was given solely to secure Roach’s extradition to Singapore to face justice for his crimes. The Singapore Government will do whatever is necessary and permissible within our legal framework to seek justice against those who commit crimes in Singapore."

Visited Singapore on social visit pass

The court heard that Roach arrived in Singapore on a social visit pass on 29 June 2016 and stayed at three hostels in Chinatown. He planned a robbery and intended to flee Singapore after the act. 

Roach's scheme involved making reconnaissance trips to the Holland Village area to familiarise himself with the surrounding environment and facilitate a smooth escape. He also selected a specific outfit to change into and out off after the robbery to avoid detection by the authorities. 

In the two days before the robbery, Roach visited the vicinity of the bank to conduct surveillance. He also bought a grey sweater solely for the purpose of donning it for the robbery. 

On 7 July 2016, 9am, Roach left his hostel and headed to Holland Village. When Roach reached the area, he loitered around to check the surroundings so as to ensure that he could carry out his robbery without getting caught. 

He then put on a black cap and a sweater, and changed his footwear. He took out a black sling bag and entered the StanChart branch. 

Accused pretended to have a gun

Yang was sitting behind a counter when Roach placed his sling bag on the counter. He handed the victim a piece of paper claiming that "this is robbery" and that he had a gun. He also stated he did not want $2 or $5 dollar notes.

The victim observed that Roach kept his right hand in his bag and believed that he had a gun. In fact, Roach did not have a gun. Court proceedings revealed that the victim had been pregnant then. 

Fearing for her life, Yang complied but managed to press a silent alarm button located below the counter and sought to delay Roach by taking small notes. When Roach declined those notes, Yang took out $10 and $50 dollar notes. When Roach asked for an envelope, Yang left her desk to comply with his demands and tried to signal her co-workers about the incident.

In total, Yang passed Roach $30,450. He fled the bank while Yang shouted. Two co-workers gave chase but lost sight of him. 

Roach fled through the underpass at Holland Village MRT to a row of shophouses along Jalan Merah Saga at Chip Bee Gardens. He changed his outfit before throwing away the sling bag. 

At around 11.25am, Roach entered a cafe at Chip Bee Gardens with the envelope. He left a while later, and returned to his hostel where he discarded the envelope. He left at 12.12pm for Changi Airport where he checked into an AirAsia flight to Bangkok, which departed several hours later. 

Roach served time in Bangkok

Roach was arrested in Bangkok on 10 July 2016. He was charged and convicted in a Thai court for an offence there. The sum that he robbed was forfeited and Roach has not made restitution to StanChart, which had since claimed the sum through insurance. 

After serving 14 months' jail, Roach was repatriated to Canada on 11 January 2018 but was arrested in the UK while in transit. Singapore authorities sought the assistance of the UK government to arrest Roach in order to extradite him to Singapore.

After a series of unsuccessful applications and appeals in the UK, Roach was extradited to Singapore on 17 March last year.

Seeking a sentence of six years and nine strokes of the cane for Roach, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Marcus Foo said, "This is a case concerning a brazen act of robbery against a bank by an accused person showing himself to be entirely unremorseful by virtue of repeatedly challenging extradition proceedings."

DPP Foo said it was aggravating that Roach had targeted Singapore for his crimes. 

Roach has major depressive disorder: Lawyer

Roach's lawyer Anand Nalachandran outlined the context of Roach's arrival in Singapore, denying that Roach had come here for the sole purpose of robbery.

"He had been travelling for about a year to multiple countries, stayed for varying durations and while in the course of his travels, he traveled to Singapore as well," said Nalachandran. 

He pointed out that according to the statement of facts, Roach only made preparations for his crime from 5 July, even though he arrived in Singapore on 29 June. This showed that Roach only formed the idea while he was in Singapore. 

Roach has also been diagnosed with major depressive disorder upon being examined by two psychiatrists here. While the condition does not make him insane or mentally unsound, it was a "contributory factor" in the commission of the offences, as it prevented Roach from thinking clearly and understanding his options. It did not occur to Roach to ask for help or to work in order to solve his money problems, said the lawyer. 

As to Roach's supposed lack of remorse by challenging his extradition, Nalachandran said that Roach had been contemplating the prospect of a 20-years jail term. "And based on the information he had received at that time, he was afraid. He did not think he would survive. In fact, during his remand in prison in the UK he attempted to harm himself," said the lawyer. 

Based on what Roach knew now, he would not have objected to the extradition, said Nalachandran. 

The lawyer submitted for a jail term of not more than four years, with the sentence backdated to when his client was detained in the UK on 11 January 2018 or alternatively to 17 March last year, when he was brought back to Singapore. 

Sentencing Roach, District Judge Luke Tan observed that his robbery was “brazen yet targeted” and was clearly not a spontaneous affair as seen by the degree of planning involved. He said that the robbery was “undoubtedly a serious offence”, as reflected by the sentence set out in the Penal Code. 

The judge noted that the victim was traumatised, as she testified in her victim impact statement that she was fearful for three weeks after the incident, during which she would cry and avoid other people, including her family. She remains affected by the incident and would feel uneasy and scared whenever she comes across it being mentioned in the news.

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